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How Israel Has Benefited from an International Double Standard
Is There a New "New Anti-Semitism"? Part 8
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Far from singling Israel out for criticism, the international community has repeatedly turned a blind eye to its breaches of international law.

The superficially most compelling case for a lurking new anti-Semitism is the comparative one. It is said that the world is replete with worse cases of oppression and repression; if the international community focuses “obsessively” on Israel, it must be due to an anti-Jewish bias. During the apartheid era, South Africa also alleged that it was being unfairly singled out. The African continent, its defenders parried (with a measure of truth), was dotted with one-party dictatorships, while South African blacks fared better economically than many of their counterparts elsewhere. In significant circles Israel has replaced South Africa as the defining moral issue of our time, and the identical charge of a double standard is now being leveled by it. Indeed, Israel is widely accused of practicing apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories (and, according to some, in Israel itself), while the popular movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel casts itself as the lineal successor of the anti-apartheid sanctions campaign.

As it happens, the South Africa and Palestine struggles bear much in common. The South African cause was initially spearheaded by the African continent, where apartheid constituted a personal affront to every black person and was perceived as a running sore from the humiliating era of Western colonialism. The Palestine cause was initially spearheaded by the Arab world, where Zionist dispossession of the indigenous population deeply resonated and Israel’s founding was also perceived as a festering wound from the imperialist epoch. Neither the South African nor the Palestinian struggle fell into the generic pattern of decolonization—they weren’t overseas non-self-governing territories seeking independence from a metropolitan state—but both were eventually assimilated to the anticolonial paradigm and came to be championed internationally as exemplary of it.

However, when it adopted these kindred struggles as its own, the international community did not deny that the, as it were, alien interlopers had acquired rights. Far from demanding their extirpation, a right of place was conferred on both the White settlers in South Africa and Jewish settlers in Palestine. In the Palestine context, the right of place validated by the 1947 Partition Resolution (181) was much more generous, in that the Zionists, unlike the Afrikaners, had only just recently impressed their physical presence against the manifest will of the indigenous population, and to boot were allotted more than half of Palestine, even as they constituted just a third of its population. From hereon in, public opinion in all its dimensions evinced not hostility but uncommon leniency, forgivingness, even magnanimity toward Israel. Although it eviscerated the Partition Resolution by forcibly expanding its borders and expelling the indigenous population, Israel was admitted to the UN, which eventually acquiesced, wholly or in part, in these egregious transgressions. Whereas the preambular paragraph of Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 war, emphasized the legal tenet of the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war,” it called for Israel’s withdrawal only from those territories “occupied in the recent conflict,” and not also from those territories beyond its UN-designated borders conquered in 1948. Resolution 242 also pointed only to a vague “just settlement of the refugee question,” and not to the Palestinian refugees’ right, stipulated in General Assembly Resolution 194 (1948), “to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors.” (General Assembly resolution 273 (1949), which secured Israeli admission to the UN, recalled Israel’s obligations under 194.) These concessions/capitulations to Israeli faits accomplis have now been enshrined in the international consensus for resolving the conflict, as set forth in the annual General Assembly resolution, Peaceful Settlement of the Palestine Question, and in the legal analysis of the advisory opinion rendered by the International Court of Justice in 2004. It calls for two states on the 1967 border, and a “just resolution of the problem of Palestine refugees in conformity with [General Assembly] resolution 194.” (In this resolution’s nuanced crafting, “just resolution…in conformity with” waters down the commitment to ensure “implementation of” 194.) Moreover, the UN did not condemn Israel’s first strike in 1967 as an act of aggression, although Israel had breached the UN Charter,[1] and it did not call for Israel’s unconditional and immediate withdrawal from the territories it occupied. Instead, in a spirit of high-minded statesmanship and banking on Israel’s good faith, it required a reciprocal termination of Arab belligerency as the necessary quid pro quo of an Israeli evacuation.[2]

[1] John Quigley, The Six-Day War and Israeli Self-Defense: Questioning the legal basis for preventive war (Cambridge: 2013).
[2] Finkelstein, Knowing Too Much, pp. 203-14.

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• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Israel Lobby 
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  1. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:


    in other news: the sky is up.

  2. Yevardian says:

    Finkelstein is Jewish, with relatives in Israel and friends in Palestine. Of course he’s going to bang away at this topic long after the world has written of the whole mess as a lost cause.

    I realised there just simply wasn’t any hope of Israel caring about that fact it’s actions brought the hate of virtually the entire world after the 2014 Gaza ‘war’.
    If/when Europe goes down the toilet and the last scraps of Israeli-resistance are destroyed in the mid-east, Israel will probably deport its Arab population.

    • Replies: @Seraphim
  3. Wasn’t it Israel and the Apartheid State South-Africa who did reserch together in a nuclear program?

    Wasn’t it in a Kibbuz in Israel where they produced these vehicles for the South-African Police ?
    South-Africa did use them against Demonstrations and rebellions in the townships.

    “Forgotten” History and no compensations for the victims.Double standard and ignorance.

    Seems that only Germans have to pay for everything while the other ones have cleaned there dark sides from the History-Books.

  4. Rehmat says:

    I, like many others, consider both Dr. Finkelstein and Dr. Chomsky being “closet Zionists”. Both while criticize Israel, demand Palestinians to abandon armed resistance and leave their fate in the hands of US and Israel. Both are also against BDS movement.

    On January 29, 2013, Peter Beinart penned an article at Israeli propaganda organ, ‘The Daily Beast’, in which he claims that politicians in both United States and South Africa are obsessed with state of Israel – “While the Israel Lobby controls American administration – most politicians in South Africa hate Israel for being an apartheid state.” He also blamed South African Muslim minority for country’s anti-Israel policy.

    Many Muslim South Africans played leading role in ANC during Blacks struggle against White Afrikan rule. Professor Fatima Meer and the youngest ANC member jailed with Nelson Mandela, Achmad Cassiem, to name a few.

    • Replies: @alexander
  5. Seraphim says:

    Speaking about “apartheid”, South Africa, double-think (that’s a better description of “double-standards”) one would do better to remember “The 2001 World Conference against Racism (WCAR), also known as Durban I, held at the Durban International Convention Centre in Durban, South Africa, under UN auspices, from 31 August to 8 September 2001”. Please retain the dates! At the time, people (some, at least) were struck by the “coincidences” with what followed.

    “The conference dealt with several controversial issues, including compensation for slavery and the actions of Israel. The language of the final Declaration and Programme of Action produced by the conference was strongly disputed in these areas, both in the preparatory meetings in the months that preceded the conference and during the conference itself…
    Two delegations, the United States and Israel*, withdrew from the conference over objections to a draft document equating Zionism with racism. The final Declaration and Programme of Action did not contain the text that the U.S. and Israel had objected to, that text having been voted out by delegates in the days after the U.S. and Israel withdrew… In parallel to the conference, a separately held NGO Forum also produced a Declaration and Programme of its own, that was not an official Conference document, which contained language relating to Israel that the WCAR had voted to exclude from its Declaration, and which was criticized by then United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson and many others.
    The NGO Forum ended in discord. Mary Robinson lost the support of the United States in her office of High Commissioner, and many of the potential political aftereffects of the conference were annulled by THE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 ATTACKS”.

    The conference was preceded by unprecedented attacks against UNO, declared an “irrelevant” organization which must be reformed, if not abolished altogether!
    *Canada and Australia played a no less dishonorable part.

  6. Seraphim says:

    “According to Finkelstein, this “Holocaust industry” has corrupted Jewish culture and the authentic memory of the Holocaust.”

    Is that so? “Finkelstein states that his consciousness of “the Nazi holocaust” is rooted in his parents’ experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto; with the exception of his parents themselves, “every family member on both sides was exterminated by the Nazis”. Nonetheless, during his childhood, no one ever asked any questions about what his mother and father had suffered. He suggests, “This was not a respectful silence. It was indifference”…According to Finkelstein, his book is “an anatomy and an indictment of the Holocaust industry”. He argues that “‘The Holocaust’ is an ideological representation of the Nazi holocaust”.
    Finkelstein is part of the “holocaust industry” himself. His role is to keep the subject alive in face of ‘indifference to it’. People were indifferent because they knew it never happened. I personally knew people who never asked for any compensation because, they said, they did not suffer anything! Jews who refused to be part of the ‘holocaust industry’ against their better conscience! So, I don’t believe F.

  7. alexander says:


    If you examine Dr. Finkelstein’s early criticisms of the BDS movement….its based on trying to be realistic about getting something done, getting some movement toward the realization of Palestinian self determination..

    BDS argues” all” the rights of Palestinians, under international law, need to be fully actualized, this includes all the territories beyond the green line, East Jerusalem, Gaza and the full implementation of the Right of Return” for refugees(and their descendants) expelled in 1948.

    It is not unclear that Dr. Finkelstein believes Palestinians are “entitled” to all their rights, he does believe they are. but he is well aware that the “actualization” of all the rights of Palestinians, would lead to the dissolution of Israel.

    Were all the territories beyond the “green line” recognized as the State of Palestine along with the complete implementation of the ROR as referenced in 194, the demographic overthrow of the “Jewish majority” within the state of Israel would occur also.

    Palestine would become Palestine, and Israel, through a demographic shift to a Palestinian majority, would become Palestine also. Israel, as understood as a state for the Jewish people, would cease to exist.

    The distinction , Dr. Finkelstein points to, between 194 and 242, implies a compromise, for the sake of peace, on the issue of Right of Return. That compromise implies a compensation package for Palestinians willing to relinquish their ROR, and return to Palestine as a state within the boundaries understood in 242.

    Dr Finkelstein believes there is enough power behind world opinion to push through a resolution along those lines. I agree. It is the best of all compromises, that grants Palestine self determination and insures Israel its mandated Jewish sovereignty.

    He hopes that this is still the case, but at this late date, with the complete collapse of the peace process, he
    may be wrong.

    What is fascinating, and most ironic, in the unfolding of the dynamics of this conflict, is how both” the BDS movement” and the “Settler enterprise” are marching toward the inevitable impasse of a “one state solution” …. albeit from completely separate points of origin.

    Whereas the BDS movement, might achieve a single state, through implementation of an un-compromised enforcing of international law, which references the Right of Return, as an actual “returning”.

    So too does the “Settler enterprise” seek to achieve a “single state” through “force of conquest”and “might of arms”.

    The BDS demands for the “complete” enforcement of international law including the implementation of 242 understood as a referencing to 194… would destroy Israel as Jewish state…… The Zionist project of creating a state where Jews could control their own destiny, free of persecution, would dissolve into the twin winds of demographics and democracy yielding an eventual “Greater Palestine “.

    The “Settler movement” seeks to achieve, through the rejection of the legitimacy of international law,and the application of overwhelming superior force, the exact opposite result, a Greater state ,not of Palestine, but of Israel.

    If the full measure of justice and international law, deserved by Palestinians, in their quest to return” home”, results in the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state , why should Israel succumb to it ?
    Of what relevance should international law have, then , if its full implementation leads to Israels destruction ?

    To the extent that the existential requirement of the state of Israel, as a Jewish state, is non-negotiable, so too does the legitimacy of Israels application of force, over law, become mandated.

    If Israel, to maintain its existence as a Jewish state, must transcend “parts” of International survive …..the question becomes what parts, once that is recognized, cannot be transcended?

    Thus the breach, of “all” international law as recognized by the “settler enterprise” displays an almost unwitting integrity….If the full implementation of international law leads to the dissolution of Israel, why “not” reject it “entirely”……and just fight to win ?

    Dr. Finkelsteins dismay over the” uncompromising” demands of the BDS movement, may well be due to his awareness that it “legitimizes”, quite paradoxically, the Settler enterprise.

    If its gonna be “all or nothing” according to BDS….then why shouldn’t it be “all or nothing”, according to” The Settlers”…too ?

  8. alexander says:

    Dear Dr Finkelstein,

    I have noticed, especially over the last 15 years, an unprecedented subordination of the notion of the “individual” to the cliques and collectives, of gender, race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation.
    It is fascinating to see just how many arguments being made, in politics, society and the media use this “clique,” or that “collective” as the starting point for enforcing rights or taking them away.
    Perhaps in an our Age of Terror, whether artificial or authentic, the tendency of people is to “huddle” together on some basis of shared common ground ?

    Nearly everyone seems to be arguing for ” the rights “of this ethnic group or that, this sexual orientation or that, this religion or that, and so on and so forth.

    Whereas I do see the value in giving some weight to these assorted groups and their “groupings”, the level at which the “individual” has been subordinated to the group,is at best disconcerting, and at worst, profoundly fraudulent.

    It seems to me that the crowning glory of the narratives of the enlightenment was the emancipation of the “individual” and the orientation of all “rights” that are conferred by society, to the individual,…. not the collective.

    Certainly the singular manifestation of these narratives, the Constitution of the United States demands not only the separation of church and state, but centers “all” rights on the individual and “none” on the collective.

    How is it that the framers could hold these truths to be self evident, yet somehow we cannot ?

    I cannot help but be drawn to the Israel/Palestine conflict as but one source, among many, where the confusion about the rights of the individual against the “alleged” rights of the collective comes sharpest into focus.

    Many have argued that Israel is nothing if not first and foremost a Jewish state. Hence the very founding of the state , in word and deed,was dedicated to the ‘collective’ of the Jewish people, not the individual, regardless of their “Jewishness”.

    How subordinate , Dr finkelstein , should the rights of the individual be in a state such as Israel ?

    How dissimilar to the United States, does Israel become, by subordinating them at all ?

    How much of a rejection of the narratives of the enlightenment, does Israel profess, by doing so?

    I think of writers like Tony Judt, who’s critique of Israel, in his 2003 article “Israel, an Alternative” defines the state as an anachronism.

    Perhaps the swellings of collective identity politics,and their subordination of the individual within our major media, today, helps soften the blow of Israels anachronistic nature ?

    Maybe it is intended to ?

    Perhaps if the United States could become more of a hodgepodge of collectives, not a nation of individuals…then the “anachronistic” nature of the state of Israel, won’t feel so……..anachronistic. ?

  9. Yevardian says:

    I’m absolutely certain Finkelstein doesn’t read any comments left here.
    He probably doesn’t even visit this website.

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